I was once a huge fan of the movie Garden State. It was released a couple of years after I graduated from high school and I felt as if the movie spoke to me. The story of feeling awkward and disconnected really resonated with me. So much so, I even wrote a paper in college about it. I watched Garden State at least a dozen times 2004-2006, but I’ve only watched it once since then, maybe ten years ago. It was during that re-watch that one particular exchange really stuck out to me.
Andrew Largeman: You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone.
Sam: I still feel at home in my house.
Andrew Largeman: You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.
This quote stopped me in my tracks. It had no meaning all those years earlier, but by this point in my life it was the single most important part of the movie for me. It had summed up my love of nostalgia and put some of my family dynamics into perspective.
I’m purposely being a bit vague here because this isn’t a post about a terrible childhood or the bright spots growing up. It also isn’t about how this strange little movie had an effect on a young version of myself. Instead, I’m writing because this morning I finally tied together my nostalgia and my concept of home.
I moved around a lot as a kid and struggle to define where I’m from. Does that mean where I was born? Does it mean where I lived the longest? Does it mean where I felt like I grew up? I’m not really sure what metric I’m supposed to use to determine and answer, so my answer is usually a shrug and “I’m a military brat, so a little here and there.”
Recently, I mentioned that I was really excited for the upcoming TV show Walker, a reimagining of Walker, Texas Ranger. I even emphasized that I was “really” excited for it. This may not seem like a big deal, but rarely do I get excited, especially not “really excited.” And even more rarely do I get excited for a reboot of a show that I didn’t even watch, stars actors who I’m pretty meh about (I was always a Dean guy), and has released trailers that look pretty mediocre at best. Still, my excitement hasn’t wavered, in fact, it’s only grown as the premiere grows nearer.
Sunday afternoon, I was looking something light to watch and settled on King of the Hill, the 90’s sitcom about a suburban Texas family. I watched this quite a bit when it first aired and I spent some time last year watching the first three seasons. I decided to pick up where I left off and I found a strange sort of calm come over me. It was peaceful and exactly what I needed after a long Saturday and a very hard work week.
Yesterday, I spent some time researching King of the Hill and I stumbled upon a soundtrack that was released. Surprisingly, this soundtrack (including the cast dialogue) can be found on Spotify. I adore soundtrack tie-in’s so I listened to it on the way home from work and on the way into work this morning. So far, it’s very enjoyable featuring artists like The Barenaked Ladies and Brooks and Dunn.
As I began the longish walk into work, I had sort of an epiphany. I was nostalgic for Texas.
I lived outside of Dallas for a portion of my early teenage years in the mid 90’s. It was during this time that Walker, Texas Ranger was a huge show and King of the Hill debuted. It was the time that I enjoyed the internet the most and loved working on websites. It was the time I truly became obsessed with professional wrestling and began serious console gaming. It was the time when my musical tastes became what they are today and I began cultivating a love for horror movies. It was the time that I think back to when I get nostalgic. It was also the time when my family was the happiest.
I’m not sure why it took me thirty-seven years to realize this. In the past, I’ve said the best time I had growing up was in Texas, but I didn’t realize exactly how influential it was on my life. I’ve spent the morning replaying my favorite childhood memories, the times that felt so special and I realize they all took place in Texas. I think back to those key moments in entertainment where my tastes developed and I realize they all took place while I lived in Texas. It’s a little mind blowing.
Suddenly, the calming that came from King of the Hill made sense. The excitement for Walker became a little more understandable. My parents watched a ton of Walker, Texas Ranger back in the 90’s. I realize that maybe on some subconscious level, maybe I feel like the reemergence of Walker will somehow result in the peace and security that I once felt for those few short years a long time ago.
I realize that I’m missing the imaginary place as mentioned in the Garden State quote. My family doesn’t live in Texas and hasn’t in twenty-two years, but in my imagination, it’s my childhood home. It was the place of many firsts and great moments. It was the one time in my entire childhood where things weren’t rocky. I felt part of a community and went to the same school for three years in a row (a record I never did reach again).
All those moments I like to discuss like visiting the video store, playing Command and Conquer, learning HTML, sitting in a computer room, playing basketball with my Dad, getting my Nintendo 64, running between bedrooms to watch WCW and the WWF at the same time, amassing my video collection, visiting horror movie chat rooms, Instant Messaging, etc all took place during those few years in Texas.
When life gets hard, I lean into my nostalgia quite a bit. It’s calming to me. I long for the simple life that I once knew in a home where the future was bright. A time when I wasn’t always connected and I had free time to explore and discover new things. A time when my mind was way more open to new things.
It’s not possible to go back to that time. I can’t visit the place in real life either. It doesn’t exist anymore. But somewhere deep inside of me I have this concept of home and that is comforting, loving, exciting, and full of hope. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for Texas.